By JESS WEBSTER
It was another case of so close, yet so far for Sydney as the Swans lost a fifth NEAFL Grand Final, but uncovered several Swans Academy gems in the process.
Here is the Swans’ season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 2nd
Last year: 2nd
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
87: Darcy Cameron
49: Dan Robinson
47: Nic Newman
39: Colin O’Riordan
24: Harry Marsh
Snapshot: Sydney didn’t get off on the right foot in 2018 after losing their first four matches to amazingly sit on the bottom of the ladder after Round 5. It was then that the Swans’ resurgence began. They won nine in a row – including a huge 88-point win over Southport – to sit on top of the ladder at the end of Round 15. Sydney finished in the top two, overran Canberra in the Preliminary Final, before the Sharks turned the tables in the Grand Final to hand the Swans another shattering loss in the final game of the year.
Highlight: Sydney’s Round 9 victory over Sydney University at the SCG will be remembered for not only ending the Students undefeated streak – and signalling the Swans’ return to form – but the outstanding performances by several academy members. Leading the way were Josh Stern and Bailey Stewart, who combined for six of Sydney’s 14 goals, as Sydney ran out 52-point winners. Stewart – a week after earning a NEAFL Rising Star nomination – was best afield after 25 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and kicking 3.2.
Lowlight: It was another heartbreaking Grand Final loss for Sydney this year when the Swans came up against a red-hot Southport at Fankhauser Reserve. Fielding their most inexperienced Grand Final team yet, the Swans were goalless at quarter-time as they suffered a 55-point loss. James Rose was the star on the day for the Swans in a side which featured 13 academy players, but ultimately they were no match for a strong Southport outfit.
Star Power: Darcy Cameron produced one of the best seasons by a ruckman in the NEAFL’s history, where the 23-year-old second-year draftee led the competition in Champion Data ranking points with an astonishing average of 154 per game. Cameron was also ranked first in contested marks, fourth for contested possessions, hit-outs and hit-outs to advantage, as well as kicking 23 goals from his 17 games. Defender Colin O’Riordan joined Cameron on the NEAFL Team of the Year after consistently starring at NEAFL level. Both players were also rewarded with AFL debuts this year.
What’s Next: There will be a bit of change at the Swans next year with 11 players either traded, delisted, or retired so far this off-season. Waiting in the wings for their chance to join the Swans are the likes of academy gun Nick Blakey and under-19 squad members Stern, Stewart, Sam Wicks, and Mitch Rogers, who were consistent performers at NEAFL level. Ky McGrath (17) and Josh Rayner (17) – who both played in the Grand Final – will be two academy members to watch out for next season.
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